ESTD Conference Berne, Switzerland: November (8) 9 - 11, 2017


Saturday, November 11, 2017, 15 - 16h

Prof. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Research Chair, Studies in Historical Trauma & Transformation, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

"Restoring Humanity in the Aftermath of Trauma"

Gobodo-Madikizela has meditated on the concepts central to the phenomenon of forgiveness and developed a body of work revolving around the process of reconciliation. She describes her research as the phenomenological study of empathy and what being moved to offer forgiveness entails.

In her award-winning book, "A Human Being Died that Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness", Gobodo-Madikizela argues that the Truth and Reconciliation Committees (TRC) overturned Hanna Arendt's notion of acts that are unforgivable and unpunishable, and for which no apology can be made. She claims that, at South Africa’s TRC, precisely the opposite occurred – apology and forgiveness for what Arendt referred to as “radical evil.” In both academic and popular settings she has examined the concepts that underlie the process of forgiving in the aftermath of historical trauma, and the potential for dialogue, remorse and forgiveness to break intergenerational cycles of repetition.

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is Professor and Research Chair for Historical Trauma and Transformation, Stellenbosch University. Her book, "A Human Being Died that Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness" won the Alan Paton Award in South Africa, and the Christopher Award in the United States for “a book that speaks to the human spirit.” The book has been published six times, including translations in Dutch, German and Italian. Her other books include "Narrating our Healing: Perspectives on Healing Trauma", as co-author (2007), "Memory, Narrative and Forgiveness: Perspectives on the Unfinished Journeys of the Past", as co-editor (2008), "Breaking Intergenerational Cycles of Repetition: A Global Dialogue on Historical Trauma and Memory", as editor (2015), and "A Reflexive Inquiry into Gender Research", as co-editor (2016). 

Her current book project is a monograph (as editor) that focuses on a close analysis of dialogue between adult children of Nazi perpetrators and descendants of Holocaust survivors. The monograph derives from her ongoing collaboration that she has been leading with German and Jewish-German psychotherapists and psychiatrist based in Cologne and Dusseldorf, and with colleagues at Cologne University. 

Past fellowships she has held include: at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School, Harvard University, and the Claude Ake Visiting Chair in the Peace and Conflict Research Department, Uppsala University, Sweden. 

Her awards include the Eleanor Roosevelt Award, the Social Change Award by Rhodes University “for contribution made by a leading psychologist to social change in South Africa.” Gobodo-Madikizela was recently named the 2016 Distinguished African Scholar, a fellowship tenable at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. 

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